Hot and crispy fried chicken: The ultimate comfort food!

May 25, 2017

Ernest Matthew Mickler’s “White Trash Cooking” (Ten Speed Press, 1986) includes a to-the-point recipe for Southern Fried Chicken. The instructions are simple: “You take a chicken and ya kill it. And you put it in a skillet. And you fry to a golden brown. That’s Southern cookin’, and it’s mighty fine.” Short on rhyme and details, but long on humor.

One of my own guestworthy dishes is fried chicken. My Texas-born mother perfected it, and many years (don’t ask!) have been dedicated to re-creating and - I hope I don’t get struck by lightning - improving her recipe.

I’m honored to report that a number of local restaurant chefs/owners quietly escape to my kitchen when they feel the need for savory crunch and spice. But it’s a production! Between brining, marinating and spicing in … [sorry, wording redacted], dredging and frying; I only wish it were as easy as Mr. Mickler suggests.

Around here, some of the best fried chicken is dished up where you’d least expect it. Catch Gus & Gus’ Place on a good day, and there’s no matching the delicious crust. Whatever they do, they do it right. I’ve been driving by Hazzard’s Savannah’s Deli & Grille on Savannah Road in Lewes thinking it was a so-so carryout for always-in-a-hurry tourists. Not so! Visitors to insisted that I get my tail feathers over there, and gadzooks! Their fried chicken is nicely spiced, and not the slightest bit greasy. And it stays that way – IF you don’t allow them to seal it up in a wax bucket (not unlike a certain colonel who shall remain nameless). If the fresh-out-of-the-fryer pieces are placed in an open container loosely covered with wax paper, the steam escapes, rather than turning your chicken’s crunch into a grease sponge.

Delawareans swear by the chicken at Jimmy’s Grille in Bridgeville, and now it’s available in Dewey Beach and Rehoboth. Another tasty variation is at Matt’s Fish Camp in Bethany and Rehoboth, where a boneless breast is butterflied, battered, and the crispy result topped with white veggie gravy. A dark and crunchy version is also available in Millsboro at Georgia House.

Fish On in Lewes and JAM Bistro in Rehoboth both offer chicken and both places do a nice job. If you find yourself hankerin’ for good fried chicken in the off-season, take the short drive to Cottage Café in Bethany Beach, where they serve particularly good fried chicken – but ONLY on Tuesdays.

One of my favorite local chefs likes to say, “Delaware is the only state where the chickens outnumber the people.” So at least some of those should rightfully be fried. (The chickens, not the people.)

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